Lines of Force
The tip of the
One of the most remarkable concepts of Auroville is its master plan, laid out in form of a galaxy - a galaxy in which several 'arms' seem to unwind from a central region. In interviews with Auroville Today in 1988 and in 1992, Roger Anger explained how this plan came into existence.
"Mother had given a couple of parameters: the division of the city into four areas, or zones, and the number of people for whom the city is envisaged (50.000). The division into those four zones (industrial, residential, international and cultural) is unique, and has no precedent in town planning. On the basis of this scheme, we, the architects and town planners, started to make suggestions to her. This was done in several stages, and finally the Galaxy came out and was presented as a model to Mother, and accepted by her as a plan that answered to her parameters. She inspired and guided the work. When I talked to Mother one day about Auroville, she said that the city already exists in a subtle level, that it is already constructed, that it is only necessary to pull it down, to make it descend on earth."
The galaxy plan shows the four zones, which are interconnected through the 'Crown', the second circular road around the Matrimandir. From the Crown, twelve roads radiate outwards as part as the infrastructure. Some of them are accompanied by a succession of high-rise buildings, which constitute the so-called 'Lines of Force', essential for the framework of the city and for the integration of all access to the city center.. But the plan is not finished. On the contrary, the city is still to be invented, everything has still to be done though the daily experience and rhythm of the Aurovilians. Apart from these lines of force, everything is flexible, nothing is fixed."
Pro's and Con's
The Lines of Force, then, are imperative, for without them there would be no spiral galaxy. But ever since their conception, the Lines of Force have been subject to much criticism and have received remarkably little support. Those opposed point to the fact that high-rise buildings are very unpleasant to live in; that they are out of fashion in many parts of the world and are being pulled down; and that they are not environment-friendly. Should Auroville in 1998 contemplate building large structures which date from a town plan conceived in the sixties? Shouldn't we rather learn from the experiences elsewhere in the world? Supporters emphasise that if one accepts that Mother was the direct inspiration and guide behind the master-plan, and that Mother's vision was from a higher level of consciousness than that which is normally accessible to us, it follows that there is a truth behind the concept and that we should endeavour to find that truth.
One of those who accept the Lines of Force as a workable manifestation of the spiral galaxy concept, is the young Canadian architect Dominic. He came to Auroville in 1997, and, dissatisfied with the present building activities in Auroville, threw himself wholeheartedly into the manifestation of those maligned Lines of Force.
"We are working now on the smallest one", explains Dominic. "This building will be 240 metres long, and 12 metres wide, and will have 90 to 120 units providing accommodation for approximately 350 people. At its highest point it will have seven stories, at its lowest two, and as you can see from the model, the building is slightly curved and increases gradually in height. It is the intention that the lowest level of this Line of Force will be directed towards the city center. Once we have learnt from this Line of Force, we can start with the others, until we reach the largest one, which will be 900 metres long. This building would also have the highest level directed towards the city center. So the Lines of Force grow horizontally and slowly increase in height towards their end. This avoids the typical 'block' aspect of the apartment buildings. At the same time, they create artificial hills and different height in the city instead of having big skyscrapers or a flat city."
Are we talking futuristic nonsense here? "Most certainly not!" And Dominic explains that all technical aspects are being fully considered. Take for example the problem of sound pollution. Says Dominic : "The design techniques to prevent sound pollution, even in the tropic, are developed and well known. The building will have a few hanging gardens, to enhance its beauty and increase the livability. There will be a green wall, all along one side of the building, to absorb the heat and give to the occupants the atmosphere of living in a green surrounding. Each apartment will have its own terrace, probably with a garden, so that full privacy is guaranteed. Underneath the building there will be a big water tank, and the water will be pumped upwards by solar pumps with solar panels positioned on top of the building."
"Ultimately," says Dominic, "it is beauty that counts. The concept of beauty and the question how to put consciousness into matter attracts me to build a Line of Force. My great example of a perfect building in the tropics is 'Golconde' which was built 65 years ago in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram under the direct inspiration and guidance of Mother and Sri Aurobindo. But we do not want to copy Golconde with this Line of Force. After all, we live in the beginning of the 21st century, and we have to use the achievements of today. Also, Aurovilians do not live the same lifestyle as ashramites, and the building should also house families with children."
"Lines of Force will become necessary. Most Aurovilians do not realise that the city of Auroville is planned on a very small territory - a circle of two and a half kms diameter - and only part of that is intended for residential purposes. We cannot continue with the present building trends, for then we will never be able to house the 50.000 people Mother spoke about. It is not reasonable to expect that individual Aurovilians need 200 sq.m for their living area and a big garden to surround their houses. This Line of Force has an apartment pattern of 25 sq.m each, so that one's requirement can be from 25 sq.m up to 125 sq.m. The small apartments of 25 sq.m. would need to have common facilities. They could be compared to the rooms in Golconde, which are 24 sq.m each. So the building would accommodate all kinds of housing patterns, individual as well as semi-collective."
First experimental section
So far the theory. What are the prospects for realisation? Dominic: "There will be usual resistance, which will try to block implementation, but we would like to start with the middle section of this small Line of Force, 15 apartments for 30-35 people.
Of course, this section will be completely experimental, we have no choice. There is an idea to experiment with hollow earth blocks, comparable to the hollow cement blocks one finds elsewhere in the world but then made from mud with 5% cement, which could give some type of ventilated walls. We estimate that the cost will be in range of Rs. 8000 to Rs. 10.000 per sq.m." A number of Aurovilians have committed themselves to manifest this truly collective experiment."
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